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Court upholds life sentences on former SS officers

Published on November 12, 2007 12:06 PM | Comments

From AFP:

An Italian court of final appeal upheld life sentences against three former Nazi officers convicted in the 1944 massacre of 560 Italian civilians in Tuscany, the ANSA news agency reported.

The case was reopened to examine whether testimony from soldiers may have been tainted because they were allegedly accomplices in the massacre.

The officer and two lieutenants were convicted in absentia in June 2005 by a military tribunal in the northern city of La Spezia, along with seven other Nazis, for the massacre in the small Tuscan town of Sant'Anna di Stazzema, near Lucca, a few days after British forces liberated Florence.

Five of the original 10 appealed the convictions, which were upheld in November 2006.

They launched a further appeal, but two have since died. The survivors are Gerhard Sommer and George Rauch, born in 1921, and Karl Gropler, born in 1923, according to ANSA.

The SS division they belonged to was retreating from an advance of British and American troops who had landed in Salerno, southern Italy, on September 3, 1943.

The SS men were under orders to follow a scorched earth policy.

About 1,000 people took refuge in Sant'Anna, a mountain town about 40 kilometres from Lucca.

On August 12, 1944, four SS companies guided by Italian fascist forces rounded up the 560 people including 120 children and machine-gunned them in front of the church.

The appeals court decision comes a few days after US film director Spike Lee began making a film on the massacre.

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